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State v. Howard

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

February 12, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
MATTHEW BRUCE HOWARD

          Assigned on Briefs September 20, 2017

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Cumberland County No. 15-153 Gary McKenzie, Judge

         The Appellant, Matthew Bruce Howard, pled guilty to second degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to twenty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the length of the sentence imposed by the trial court, arguing that the trial court erred by enhancing his sentence because he abused a position of private trust. Upon review, we agree that the trial court erred by finding that the Appellant abused a position of private trust, but we nevertheless affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Kevin R. Bryant, Crossville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Matthew Bruce Howard.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Linda D. Kirklen, Assistant Attorney General; Bryant C. Dunaway, District Attorney General; and Philip Hatch, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          NORMA MCGEE OGLE, JUDGE

         I. Factual Background

         The Appellant was charged with the first degree murder of his girlfriend, Tara Burnett, but eventually he pled guilty to second degree murder. Pursuant to statute, the Appellant was required to serve one hundred percent of the sentence for the second degree murder conviction in confinement. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-501(i)(1), (2)(B). The plea agreement provided that the Appellant would be sentenced as a Range I, standard offender and that the trial court would determine the length of the sentence.

         To provide a factual basis for the plea, the State called Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Agent Dan Friel. Agent Friel testified the State's proof would be that around 3:00 a.m. on February 16, 2015, the Appellant called Cumberland County 911 to report a shooting at a residence on Kings Down Road. Cumberland County Sheriff's Captain Jerry Jackson asked Agent Friel to come to the scene. After the police obtained a search warrant for the residence, they found the victim's body in the master bedroom. The police also found a .22 caliber rifle and a shell casing in the residence. Testing revealed that the shell casing had been fired from the rifle. The caliber of the round was "consistent with the gunshot wound sustained by" the victim. The victim's body was taken to the medical examiner's office where her manner of death was determined to be a gunshot wound to the left temple.

         At some point, Agent Friel and Investigator David Moore spoke with the Appellant. Agent Friel said that the Appellant

told us that he had woke up early that morning, and when he woke up, he saw a white individual standing by his bed, and a black individual standing by the bathroom area. He said he reached over to get his .22 caliber rifle. At that time, he saw [the victim] sitting up in the bed holding two, what he believed were Glock handguns, and at that time, he shot her. He shot her in the temple area of the left side of her head.

         Agent Friel said the police determined that all of the doors of the Appellant's residence were locked from the inside, and they found no indications of forced entry. Additionally, the police did not find any Glock handguns. The trial court ...


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